The theme is simple enough, “captives.” There are plenty of those in “Supernatural.” The angels are captives on earth. Kevin is a captive in the veil. Mrs. Tran is a captive of Crowley. Castiel is a captive of Bartholomew and his treachery. Sam and Dean are captives of a fractured relationship, as well as their own personal issues.
Captives are fighters and survivors. Their captivity, despite the individual ordeal, often happens for a greater purpose. Those that die aren’t supposed to die in vain. Those that live are to carry on by example. They overcome, they persevere. That theme, woven throughout the stories in this episode, set up some amazing possibilities of hope and redemption for all our characters this week. It’s pretty damned refreshing given the darkness that’s been surrounding them.
First off, welcome back Kevin Tran! I’m glad Sam and Dean easily figured out that if the bunker was haunted, it could only be one person - the one person to die in the bunker recently. Bobby was able to come back as a ghost, why not Kevin? I’m glad they didn’t string that mystery along. Also it makes sense.
Kevin, like all the other souls, are trapped. The ghosts in the veil though have the good fortune of having an advanced placement student in their midst as well as a prophet. He’s using his position to save his Mom. Nothing else matters. Even in the veil though Kevin has his snarkiness; ranting about having to endure Dean’s “self pity” speeches while trying to break through. “I didn’t hear enough of those when I was alive.” Hee, poor Dean. That was a tear jerking speech too!
Before I go any further into character analysis, I’d like to first fathom the metaphysical ramifications of what we discovered in “Captives.” I’m still trying to wrap my head around this idea that because Heaven is closed for business, all business. Angels have fallen to earth, newly departed souls can’t get into Heaven, so it’s just Metatron and all the other souls up there? Wow, that is a major imbalance of the natural order.
Think about it. Imagine Sam in the season premiere going with Death (or whoever it was) to the great beyond. He would have been stuffed into the veil! Death (or whoever) wouldn’t really be able to deliver on that promise of never coming back, would he? Of course if it was Death, he’s pretty powerful, so maybe he would have been able to get Sam into Heaven. But suddenly, the idea of saving Sam from death no matter what the cost doesn’t seem so bad.
Worse, imagine what happens when all those souls become angry spirits. That can’t bode well on the living, let alone the souls in limbo. What sort of chaos could that possibly cause long term? Also imagine what would have happened if Sam had closed the gates of Hell last season. Then basically all souls would be trapped on earth. No Hell below us, above us only sky. Now I see what Metatron was saying back in “The Great Escapist” with “pulling one of the great levers.” Sure, I’d imagine that a lot of souls don’t deserve to go to Hell, but should Sam and Dean be making those decisions? Playing God so to speak? This is just another chapter in the question driving this entire series, “What if God left the building?” The universe is screwed, that’s what.
But the unlikeliest heroes emerge in these situations too, and we got to see some of that in “Captives”. I’ve always been fascinated with the way “Supernatural” toys with metaphysics, and “Captives” blew my mind by just adding another big leap in that dimension. It’s pretty rad.
“You may have lost the war, but you tried a new way. I respect that.”
Castiel again manages to find trouble in his quest, and the results are quite unexpected. This time, it’s a good unexpected. Bartholomew captures Castiel, but it turns out he’s an old subordinate of Castiel. He’s a bit of a fan too. If it wasn’t for Castiel’s treachery, he wouldn’t have decided to rise up and become a leader; one that will take the angels back to Heaven - And elsewhere. Uh oh, another wayward power hungry angel. Once again, we learn Heaven is without a mastermind. Bartholomew is just another angel that emerges with lofty goals after being oppressed for so long. An angel with ambition doesn’t seem to get very far in this show.
Bartholomew was right about one thing. All these angels, all these factions, they all have one goal - To open up the gates of Heaven. It’s the core methodology that’s different. The penitents accept that they have strayed from their original mission and have to live among humans peacefully (pacifists). Bartholomew believes that there should be collateral damage and bloodshed in order to achieve the goal (The staunch conservative). Malachi ‘s group just wants to go home and will do whatever they can to get there (moderates).
The angels have needed in their entire existence someone to pull them together- to give them orders, to guide them, to remind them of their purpose. For years that was Michael, but his mission strayed toward his own perceived destiny. Naomi was a pencil pusher who found balance in her bureaucratic ways. Metatron is an evil tyrant who had his plan for revenge. Bartholomew thinks “a drop of blood to save a gallon,” but he doesn’t mind that it’s human blood. His disregard for the human vessels proves that.
What did all of these angels that have risen to power have in common? They all have a total disregard for humanity. They’ve forgotten God’s mission for them. They’ve lost their faith and their way. Only one angel vying for leadership has had humanity and the original purpose of protecting humans in mind. Our trench coated one.
Castiel’s struggle, and the one that’s always plagued him, is that doing the right thing just isn’t enough. He keeps coming back from the dead, something he called once a “resurrection curse.” It’s always been my belief that Castiel was chosen for something bigger and keeps being brought back because his mission isn’t finished. However, he’s had a very, very hard time figuring out that mission. His path is riddled with mistakes, but one thing he’s always managed to keep more or less is his faith. Faith in his father, faith in humanity. That’s what sets him apart from the other angels.
It goes back to the discussion of Bartholomew killing the captives. Bartholomew killed them after superiors pulled Castiel from the battlefield, following their orders instead. They knew Castiel wouldn’t be able to do it. Even Naomi called Castiel a spanner in the works, someone who always went against the norm. As long as Castiel keeps acting like the lone “rebel”, he’s going to continue to have a lot misery happen around him. Leading others, getting all angels to see the error of their ways and remember their purpose is what he has to do. Rebecca tried, but she was just one angel. Castiel is a legend. He expelled Raphael, fought Naomi, and now he’s killed Bartholomew (despite the fact he didn’t want to). Yeah, he was tricked by Metatron too, but what better motivation to rally the troops? There is no one else that can save the angels from themselves.
I really smiled when those three angels in the graveyard pledged their allegiance to Castiel. It’s not full redemption for all he’s done, but it’s a start. Our angel is growing up, and with his human cohorts, and who knows, maybe a little help from the King of Hell, they all together will restore order in their worlds. No, it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a lot of harder battles, but having a small following is a start.
“It was my fault, and there’s nothing I can do to make that right.”
If Castiel is forging a path, then Sam and Dean need to find theirs. In their case, it’s a simple “together we stand, united we fall.” They aren’t united and they’re falling. Kevin, in ghost form, acted in this episode like the wise prophet. He’s spent time in the veil, he can see the bigger picture. He isn’t angry over what happened to him. He’s forgiven Sam and Dean because there are higher priorities. Save his Mom. That’s how they make things right. Even if death, he watches over her and she watches over him. It’s a nice parallel to Sam and Dean, who have spent a lifetime watching over one another. They need to get there again. That’s the message Kevin tried to deliver at the end, the crap isn’t worth it. That’s the message unfortunately that still has to sink in.
This situation with Sam is starting to have a very hard effect on Dean. He’s drowning in guilt and self loathing, and there’s no one to help pull him out of this rut. Sam was always there before. Remember “Point of No Return?” Dean’s speech to Kevin reflected how bad he is. He was so devastated in grief that he didn’t notice Kevin trying to break through the veil. He’s bearing a huge burden on his own and this new arrangement with Sam is killing him.
Sam is so in “business mode” he wouldn’t stick around to chat when it was Dean’s turn on “coffee pot” watch (I thought that was funny by the way). Dean’s frustrations were perfectly clear in the Impala when Sam challenged Dean’s belief that what they were told by Candy didn’t fit Crowley’s behavior. “I’m just talking it out, working the case, business like,” Dean says exasperated. But what worried me the most was the very end. The look on his face when he went back to his room, putting on his headphones after Sam walked away was troubling. He wasn’t upset or dismayed. He was pissed off. He’s nearing a breaking point. Given his self loathing and the fact he’s carrying the Mark of Cain, what could this all mean for Dean? Will he end up spiraling downward even more? What is all this driving him toward? It has me very, very worried.
We know Sam is in a world of hurt too. He’s chosen silence this week, because any other words will likely make the situation worse and lead to harder feelings. He wants to say something, but he’s holding back. His concern for Dean is obvious. The beginning scene proves that, when Sam jumped out of his room after Dean called his name. He was definitely worried when he couldn’t find Dean and saw the signs of a ghost. He saved his brother from the demon too. So why did Sam promise Kevin that he would “get over it” and then walked away from Dean?
I don’t think Sam lied. He just can’t get over it right now. It’s not the time. He’s afraid that whatever he tells Dean, the wrong thing will come out. That what he says will be misunderstood. He still can’t trust Dean either, and that’s adding to his apprehension. He did hesitate before going into his room. He did want to talk and say something. Eventually he will. But what he doesn’t realize is that pushing away his brother is actually doing Dean more harm than good. It’s understandable, Sam is lost in his own issues right now and he can’t see five inches in front of his own face. But he’s softening. Time is healing the wounds. The question is when he’s ready, will Dean be? It seems that Dean was more than willing to talk and Sam’s brush off could change all that. Dean might not be so open next time.
So yes, it ends with brotherly drama. All is not well in the SPN universe. It is only episode 14 though and that conflict needs to drag out longer. I think both Sam and Dean emotionally are correct given the gravity of their situations. But it’s torture for the fan that wants them to ride together in the Impala, talking and acting like brothers, smiling a bit more, having more fun and appreciating life. Well, Sam and Dean both want that too and I’m hoping neither have given up on that idea of getting back to that point someday. But after what happened, recovery is not easy and it shouldn’t be.
I’m hoping very much that won’t be the last we’ll see of Kevin and Mrs. Tran and who knows, maybe some sort of heavenly loophole can help our prophet find his way back to earth and among the living. He was wronged and earth needs a prophet. Castiel seems like the perfect kind of angel to right that wrong, don’t you think? Mrs. Tran kicked ass and was inspirational in her devotion to Kevin, even when Sam tenderly let her know in his own way that Kevin was dead (it does make sense that Sam chose to be honest in that situation given his latest issues with deception). I’m very glad the show chose to address her plight sooner than years later. It gives us as fans a little closure should they not go back to the Tran story, but they better! I think having a prophet ghost communicating with those in the veil will come in handy. Plus I want to see Kevin insult Sam and Dean more.
Director Jerry Wanek did an incredible job this week. The sweeping camera movements in the beginning, showing the layout of the bunker in full detail and at different angles was just awesome. It makes sense, since he designed the set! Mr. Wanek, my son is trying to build a lego model of the bunker, and this episode will definitely be used for plenty of reference. Thank you. It wasn’t just the bunker though. There was also little gems like the shot of the angel keeping guard between Castiel and Bartholomew in the office. The reflection of him on the glossy table was a stunning visual. It seemed to add a nice touch to the bland, square room. The action sequences were pretty wicked too, especially the fight in the storage locker between Sam and the demon clerk.
I noticed the score was a lot more moving this week too. I’m always a sucker when Chris Lennertz or Jay Gruska bring out the violins though, and it all came during the right times to add perfect touches to an already emotional scene. Usually funeral scenes of strangers do nothing for me in TV shows, but the score reminded us that we were supposed to care about this person and her plight, even if we didn’t know her. Castiel did, and it made his sadness more believable.
On the fashion side of things, anyone notice that short coats are in this year? Castiel’s trench coat has gotten shorter, and now both Sam and Dean were wearing short wool jackets. It’s kind of a weird look, but I guess for fighting bad guys, it’s probably better for them.
I haven’t assigned a grade to an episode in a long time, but I’m giving “Captives” an A-. I’m really enjoying writer Robert Berens as an addition to the team. He wrote a fluid, well paced, intricate script and I’m thrilled to be given some material like this to analyze. Now, bring on the Ghostfacers! I love those guys.